Just the other day, Joha and I were walking through a grocery store aisle to buy some rice, which has become an essential food item in our household.
As we picked up the rice, I noticed bags of red beans placed nearby – living in South Louisiana, these items are synonymous with one another.
For those unfamiliar with this southern, more notably creole, delight, Red Beans and Rice is an extremely common meal throughout Louisiana and Mississippi. It’s served in every school cafeteria, usually on Mondays.
Why Mondays? Well, historically in the South, Sundays were for large meals for the family after church, usually consisting of a Sunday Ham and lots of vegetables and such, while Mondays were when the men went back to work, the children went back to school, and the women washed all the clothes. So on those Mondays, the mothers would repurpose the ham bone and cook it with red beans on the stove all day while they were outside washing. That’s why Red Beans and Rice is known in the South as a Monday dish.
As a homeschool student, I didn’t know about the Monday recurrence until I was in college when I noticed the pattern.
Every Monday for four years, Red Beans and Rice was on the cafeteria buffet line. Every single Monday. And though I didn’t eat it every single week, I loved it.
I grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi – an hour East of New Orleans; then after high school and junior college, I went to Louisiana State University and moved to Baton Rouge – an hour West of New Orleans.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the world famous New Orleans, working as a musician – singing on Frenchmen and Bourbon streets; and as a photographer, catching the unique beauty; and simply exploring what the city has to offer.
It’s almost as though New Orleans is a magnet to me, and I am drawn to it and its eccentricities; its music. And especially its food.
So as we stood in the grocery store aisle between the rice and the red beans, I said, “hey, you want to make red beans and rice?”
“Yeah, let’s do that!” she responded.
I’ve only cooked the dish once before, and I learned a lot from the first experience, so I was determined to make a good pot and show Joha the basics of creole flavors that I’ve learned throughout the years. Basics, like the term “trinity” (which is onion, bell pepper, and celery), what’s in a decent roux, and what spices are in most “Cajun seasonings” (salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper in varying proportions, give or take a couple ingredients).
To many around the South, this dish reminds them of their childhoods, but to me (because I really wasn’t completely enveloped in the Red Beans and Rice Mondays culture until later in life) it reminds me of music – in particularly, Jazz music.
I remember going to a recording studio last year and laying down vocal tracks for a friend’s band’s upcoming album.
The studio was just like New Orleans – it was small; felt like it was once someone’s home; it had tons of history plastered on the walls with photos and art; and was filled with music, with instruments everywhere and even embedded in the artwork around the studio’s entirety.
I sang the song I was to be featured on, and then we played around with some vocal parts to other songs, and just had a good time listening to parts of the unreleased album.
Then I left and drove a few blocks away to a place that’s been said to have the best fried chicken in America – Willie Mae’s Scotch House. I ordered the chicken with a side of Red Beans and Rice, and it was incredible.
Red Beans also reminds me of jazz because of the way it’s cooked – everybody’s has a different flavor. Some like it sweet, some like it spicy, but for me it depends on my mood while I’m cooking.
This is another one of those recipes that has tons of variants, so I recommend looking over this recipe and then doing it, but different.
Make this recipe your own, have fun, and enjoy the meal!
New Orleans stlye creamy Red Beans and Rice
1 lb Red Beans
1 ham hock
1 tbsp. grease (use bacon grease, lard, oil, etc)
4 tbsp butter
1 white onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Water as needed
1 container (32 oz) Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Dried Thyme
½ cup chopped fresh Parsley
2 Bay Leaves
1 package of Andouille Sausage
Rinse beans and allow to soak in a bowl filled with water overnight. Once the beans have been soaking for at least 10 hours;
Heat grease on medium heat in a large pot (if you plan to use a crock pot for the red beans, sauté these ingredients in a large pan instead of a pot). Sauté garlic, onions, bell peppers and celery and add a pinch of salt and pepper, then add ham hock. Add butter and allow mixture to cook down to a golden color.
(If you wish to add herbs other than what is listed in ingredients list, add them to this mix. I have added fresh basil here in the past or other herbs that were growing in my garden.)
Once golden brown, add chicken stock, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, thyme and parsley.
(If using crockpot, transfer everything into the crockpot now)
Drain water from red beans and add beans into the soupy mix. Stir and let boil (unless using crockpot).
Add bay leaves. Cover and let cook on low-medium heat for 3 hours. If using crockpot, cover and let cook on low all day (6-8 hours).
With about an hour remaining, take a fork or spoon and smash about half the red beans on side of pot. This will give the mixture a smooth creamy style. If using a crockpot, remove half the beans, placing them in a separate bowl and smash them with a fork. Once creamed, place back into crockpot.
Add sausage to mix and continue to let simmer on low-medium heat.
(Add hot sauce or jalapeño pepper if desired for spice.)
*Continuously taste throughout process and add seasonings as desired.
**If using crockpot, refrain from opening top a lot. Professionals claim that each time the crockpot’s top is opened, it’s like you lose 30 minutes of cook time.
Separately, prepare rice to serve with red beans.
Serve Red Beans with Rice.